What are your best qualities? What are your worst qualities? It is in answer to these questions, to submit to the University of Chicago admissions board, that Addison Schacht begins the madcap story of his life, leading up to the present day. As a high-school senior and part time drug dealer, Addison has (in his eyes) a lot to deal with. Having to juggle school work with his extra-curricular pursuits, including his potential girlfriend, Digger, Addison becomes obsessed with the murder of a fellow classmate and takes it upon himself to solve his murder.
There are few novels where an upcoming film adaptation might be expected to trump the original book. However, if the majority of Addison’s self-serving monologue is removed, and the action left in, a film could perhaps be where this story shines. As a novel, Munson is too preoccupied with making a statement rather than telling a story. There are glimmers of literary eloquence at times but these feel too few and far between as Addison’s character quickly shifts back to obsessive and inane rambling about things that the reader is unlikely to care about (and Addison frequently tells the reader they definitely won’t care about).
Addison’s best friend (and would-be girlfriend if he wasn’t so self-absorbed), Digger, is the most likeable and intriguing character in the novel, although she too feels somewhat stereotyped as a clever but incurably apathetic teen. If, as a reader, self-indulgent adolescents (think along the lines of The Catcher in the Rye here – though this is a lazy comparison where this book is concerned) don’t bother you, and verbal ticks aren’t a problem either, then give The November Criminals a go. If, however, you want pithy, whip-smart teens that possibly have something of value to say, there are several writers out there who would present a much more satisfying read.
The November Criminals by Sam Munson (Atom) is out in £12.99 paperback.